The Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way of St. James, is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia -north-western Spain- whereas the legend says, the remains of the apostle Saint James, were found in the IX century. The Camino is one of the largest spiritual, cultural and religious events to take place throughout the history of humanity attracting pilgrims from all over the world.
“El camino” is used by a large number of cyclists, who make the Way as Tourists and as Pilgrims. Travel agencies such as SantiagoWays, leader on the sector and whose team is formed by lovers of the Way of St. James with extensive experience in the different routes, may help you prepare your itinerary and set everything you need up before taking the bike and embarking on the adventure.
They can also help you to choose the route of the Way of St. James that suits you best. The French Way and the English Way do not present difficulties. The Northern Coastal Way and the Original Way, as well as the Silver Way -except the last fortnight of July and the first of August, where heat becomes a factor to be taken into account. Here are the things you need to take into account before starting “El Camino” by bike if you want to complete it successfully.
Bike and previous training
A mountain bike is the best option for this kind of route since you are going to find different kinds of pavement along the way. Much of the land you’re going to find will be stone and dirt. To prepare for it during the year, you will need to train hard -unless you are already used to traveling long distances by bike. It is better for you to leave the asphalt aside and embrace the countryside and dirt roads. Then you will be able to think about which route to choose and the stages you must do to complete the Way. You must have traveled hundreds of kilometers with your bike before daring with the Way, and you must also know it as if it were part of your family. This way you will be able to solve any unforeseen event quickly and easily.
Clothing and bike equipment
You will need a helmet, a maillot, a culotte, and comfortable shoes to be able to ride your bike for hours and hours. If you keep riding until night time, you will also need front and rear lights and a reflective vest. Socks and underwear will be needed to change after the shower, as well as T-shirts. Extra pants are great if you want to have stopped to have dinner in the village. Also, always carry a water jacket and plastic bags to cover your stuff, even during summer -it always rains in Galicia!
Some days you won’t be able to shower, so wet wipes and deodorant are crucial to keep the hygiene to a minimum. Same goes with toothpaste and toothbrush. Also carry a towel, flip flops, and 2-in-1 body wash & shampoo for the lucky days when you manage to sleep at a hostel. Don’t forget your sleeping bag nor a First Aid Kit.
Bike Repairs Kit
At least, you will need a patch kit or a tire plug to fix a small flat tire, but if the problem is big you’ll probably need a spare tube. In both cases, a mini pump to inflate the tire will be needed. Other tools and materials worth to have with you are a set of hex key, a wrench, a screwdriver, and spare radius, brake and shift cables, duct tape and bungee hook straps.
Every day riding along the Way you will need water and snacks during, so don’t forget to carry some. Keep your personal documentation (DNI, VISA) and your money always with you, and don’t forget to bring a map. The Way is well signposted, but one can always get lost. Cellphones and chargers are also useful for that. Camera, batteries, notebook, and pen may also come handy.
Accommodation and the “Compostela”
You will find plenty of places to stay the night along the Way, but public albergues (huts) give preference to people who walk the Camino. If you want to secure a place to sleep, you can book a private hostel -or a little hotel in bigger cities. It is not very expensive. Wherever you stay the night, don’t forget your pilgrim’s credential and get it stamped. Thus, at the end of the Way, you will get your Compostela -the accreditation of the pilgrimage to the Tomb of St. James. You will need to cover at least 200 km by bike to get it.